35-year-old murder conviction overturned in Brooklyn due to unreliable testimony
A murder conviction from 1986 was overturned on Friday in the courtroom of Judge Matthew D’Emic as Detroy Livingston, now 59, has been set free after spending the last 35 years behind bars.
District Attorney Eric Gonzalez has announced his decision to vacate the conviction of Detroy Livingston, who had been found guilty in a 1986 trial related to a murder that transpired in a Bedford-Stuyvesant bodega in 1982. Livingston, who had already served nearly 35 years of his sentence, was paroled in April 2021.
“This old conviction was predicated on the testimony of a single witness who, based on a reinvestigation by my Conviction Review Unit, should have never been called to testify at trial,” Gonzalez said. “Her myriad inconsistent statements and newly discovered crack habit undermine this conviction and it must be reversed.”
The DA’s Conviction Review Unit (CRU) undertook a rigorous re-examination of the case, ultimately determining that the only eyewitness’s testimony, pivotal for the prosecution in the original trial, was seriously flawed. The witness, who was 19 during the trial, had given multiple contradictory statements and admitted to being under the influence of crack cocaine at the time of the alleged incident.
Back in December 1982, the incident involved the fatal shooting of employee Jairam Gangaram during a robbery at a small grocery store in Bedford Stuyvesant. While another worker was injured, he managed to survive. The case saw little progress until 1986, when Livingston and a purported accomplice were charged and indicted.
The now-questioned eyewitness had claimed she observed Livingston shoot Gangaram and later spotted the alleged accomplice possessing bags of marijuana from the store. Rejecting a plea deal and maintaining his innocence throughout, Livingston was sentenced to 25 years to life.
Recent revelations found the eyewitness’s testimony at Livingston’s co-defendant’s trial even more dubious, leading the jury to rely on a different testimony, that of the surviving store employee. The CRU found multiple inconsistencies in the witness’s account, some of which seemed physically improbable given crime scene evidence.
A poignant catalyst for the CRU’s reinvestigation was a plea from the victim’s daughter, who asserted Livingston’s innocence. The review of the case illuminated glaring discrepancies in the eyewitness’s account, casting severe doubts on her reliability.
Under the purview of the Conviction Review Unit, 36 convictions have been vacated since its inception in 2014, with approximately 40 more investigations currently underway.
Assistant District Attorney Rachel Kalman, alongside her team from the District Attorney’s Conviction Review Unit, managed the investigation.
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